Thursday, December 15, 2011

Back in Business: Crusty Rosemary-Olive Peasant-Style Pot Bread


Alright, so I realize that I have slacked on posting...life has been chaotic for our family. Between doing a half marathon, my husband's crazy schedule, the holidays, flus & colds, extensive travel, house repairs, managing a toddler, and general busy-ness of everyday life, my little blog has suffered. Everyone is busy, I know! But after I made this bread, yesterday, I was motivated to post again. It was that good. Especially if you're into rustic food. This bread would be amazing with the hearty soups of this season, along stews, and as a sandwich bread. I'd even use it as the foundation of a broiled caprese toast (think pesto, fresh mozzarella, vine-ripe tomatoes).

If you have seen any of my other posts, you will see that I am insanely into this nice woman named Nancy Baggett and her fabulous bread cookbook, Kneadlessly Simple. By the way, the book has gone down in price on Amazon. And how can you not want to make something from someone that emails you back every time you email her with a question?! Anyway, I was so excited about this bread because it reminds me of the fantastic Italian bread served at Maggiano's Corner Bakery (in Chicago area). I usually get the tuna salad on this kind of olive bread and never imagined I could make something like it at home! And so easily!

The bread is very easy to make--you just have to patiently wait and go about living your life--which shouldn't be hard considering the holidays are around the corner...right? However, I will confess that while in a hurry, I misread the directions after the second rise, and let the bread rise on the counter instead of the fridge overnight. Imagine my surprise to see that the bread STILL turned out amazingly well--I'm not saying I recommend doing what I did, just that it was surprising to see that the dough continued to rise, air pockets were visible, the crust was intact, and it tasted wonderful with a piece of hard goat cheese and a crisp apple. YUM! Enjoy!

Make the basic white version if it's your first time making a bread, or add in the kalamata olives and fresh rosemary like I did (I brought in my outdoor plant and somehow it's surviving inside!)--you will be very surprised that you can make a bread with the same quality of that at your local European bakery.

NOTE: The crust softens if you store the bread in plastic wrap or plastic bags.




From the author, Nancy Baggett:

Pot boules — round, peasant-style breads that are simply popped into a sturdy, lidded pot and baked — are about the easiest loaves possible, but among the most gratifying. They puff up well, brown beautifully and always come out crusty, due to the moisture trapped inside the pot during the first few minutes in the oven. (In fact, the pot actually serves as a minioven.) As a bonus, the loaves need no hand shaping because the dough just conforms to the container shape as it expands.

Like the basic black dress, this basic white loaf is always appropriate and in favor. The interplay of light mild crumb, crunchy golden crust and deep, sweet yeast taste and aroma (coaxed out by long, slow rising) is downright amazing. In fact, eating this bread is a far more complex and exciting sensory experience than one might expect from the simple ingredients.

Should you ever want a change of pace from the basic loaf, it's an easy matter to add a few accents for a rather different effect. See the rosemary-black olive variation at the end of the recipe.



CRUSTY WHITE PEASANT-STYLE POT BREAD-with Rosemary-Olive Variation 

Makes 1 large loaf, 12 to 14 slices.

  • 4 cups (20 ounces) unbleached all-purpose white flour or white bread flour, plus more as needed (I used 3 cups white flour + 1 cup whole wheat flour + ~1 Tbsp. Vital wheat gluten)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon instant, fast-rising or bread-machine yeast
  • 2 cups ice water, plus more if needed
  • Corn oil, canola oil or other flavorless vegetable oil or oil spray for coating dough (I used olive oil for the Rosemary-Olive version I made)

First Rise: In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Vigorously stir the water into the bowl, scraping down the sides and mixing until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. If the mixture is too dry to incorporate all the flour, stir in more water, a bit at a time, just enough to blend the ingredients. 

Don't over-moisten; the dough should be very stiff. If necessary, stir in enough more flour to yield a hard-to-stir dough. Brush or spray the top with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. If desired, for best flavor or for convenience, you can refrigerate the dough for three to 10 hours. Then let rise at cool room temperature for 18 to 24 hours. If convenient, vigorously stir the dough once about halfway through the rise.

Second Rise: Using an oiled rubber spatula, gently lift and fold the dough in toward the center, all the way around, until mostly deflated; don't stir. Brush or spray the surface with oil. Re-cover the bowl with plastic wrap that has been coated with nonstick spray. Let rise using any of these methods: for a 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-hour regular rise, let stand at warm room temperature; for a 1- to 2-hour accelerated rise, let stand in a turned-off microwave along with 1 cup of boiling-hot water; or for an extended rise, refrigerate, covered, for 4 to 24 hours, then set out at room temperature. Continue the rise until the dough doubles from the deflated size; remove the plastic if the dough nears it.

Baking Preliminaries: 20 minutes before baking time, put a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees. Heat a 3 1/2- to 4-quart (or larger) heavy metal pot or Dutch oven in the oven until sizzling hot (test with a few drops of water), then remove it, using heavy mitts. Taking care not to deflate the dough (or burn yourself), loosen it from the bowl sides with an oiled rubber spatula and gently invert it into the pot. Don't worry if it's lopsided and ragged-looking; it will even out during baking. Generously spritz or brush the top with water. Immediately top with the lid. Shake the pot back and forth to center the dough.

Baking: Bake on the lower rack for 55 minutes. Remove the lid. Reduce the heat to 425 degrees. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the top is well browned and a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out with just a few crumbs on the tip (or until center registers 209 to 212 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). When it seems done, bake 5 minutes longer to ensure the center is baked through. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the loaf to the rack and cool thoroughly.

VARIATION: Crusty Rosemary And Olive Pot Bread — Stir 1 cup pitted, coarsely chopped kalamata olives (well drained) and 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh (not dried) rosemary needles (discard the stems) into the dough along with the water. Proceed exactly as directed in the original recipe.


Serving And Storing: Cut or tear the loaf into portions; it tastes good warm but will cut much better when cool. Cool completely before storing. To maintain the crisp crust, store draped with a clean tea towel or in a heavy paper bag. Or store airtight in a plastic bag or wrapped in foil: The crust will soften, but can be crisped by heating the loaf, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes. The bread will keep at room temperature for three days, and may be frozen, airtight, for up to two months.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Blue Moon Inn Spread



I had never heard of the Blue Moon Inn in Montgomery, Alabama, but 'pinned' this recipe online. Apparently, this inn has since closed, but their recipes live on--they have a Junior League style cookbook. I've seen this dip/spread also called Famous Blue Moon Inn Pimento Cheese.

When we were in Knoxville a few weekends ago, my mother in law graciously let me play in the kitchen while she watched my daughter and I got to try some new recipes. Here are some pictures that remind me of how much I miss East TN....no matter how many things I have found to enjoy in West TN, there is quite nothing like the feel of God's country--and East TN is God's country (of course many would object and that's totally ok! haha). The fields, the farm stands with mums, the little churches, the farms, the mountains, the century old homes with wrap-around porches, the wild walnuts, the openness...











This dip was one of my trials in the kitchen and we really liked it. It was delicious with pita chips and I think it would be delicious to have as a grilled cheese filling too. We had it on sandwiches with soup one night after we got home. Really good basic dip/spread recipe.

BLUE MOON INN CHEESE SPREAD (OR DIP)
Adapted from Southern Living

Yield: 8 Servings
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives, chopped
  • 1/3 cup bottled chili sauce*
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 (10-oz.) block sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded

Garnish: 
  • Sliced pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives
  • Assorted vegetables and crackers

    Preheat oven to 350°. 
    Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. Cool 5 minutes; finely chop pecans. (I actually used chopped pecans and baked them a minute or two less)
    Stir together mayonnaise and next 3 ingredients until well blended. Stir in cheese and pecans. Garnish, if desired. 
    Serve with vegetables and crackers. (I think serving it with a sweet vegetable like red bell pepper strips would be super ideal!)
*We did not have chili sauce and used salsa instead--seemed wonderful with it too!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Quick Taste of Sweet Fall: Creamy Pumpkin Dip


We spent the evening carving pumpkins last night. Don't you just LOVE pumpkins??

Here is my group hard at work (with a power tool for 'stars'):


And our end results:




While working on carving these pumpkins, I remembered to post this creamy pumpkin dip recipe that had my Bible study girls intrigued earlier this week when I hosted. This dip may not look like much, but it is SUPER good! The recipe was requested by several girls, so thought I'd share. Someone said it tasted like a creamy pumpkin pie. I guess pumpkin pie must be a theme to my baking lately...hmmmm...a bit obsessed? Possibly. Yet, this little dip is worth trying--and no, I'm not calling it healthy, but doesn't Halloween count as the beginning of holiday eating?

I made this sweet dip with a basic pumpkin butter I had made last week in an attempt to make the perfect flat-crispy-chewy chocolate chip pumpkin cookie (BIG FAT FAILURE, by the way--ended up 'cake-like' anyway), but I've made it with canned pumpkin and it works equally well..I imagine this dip would also do well with the addition of chopped pecans...just a thought. And if anyone is wondering about how to make a pumpkin butter similar to Williams-Sonoma's, here's my post on spicy pecan pumpkin butter. Hope to make a new batch by the end of the week--I crave it as soon as the weather turns cooler.

The dip is very simple to make, requires only a handful of ingredients, comes together in a snap, and pleases the masses. Make this as a dessert to enjoy with friends or on girls' night in...your kids will love dipping their graham crackers into it too!


CREAMY PUMPKIN DIP

Makes enough to serve 8 people (at least)

  • 6 ounces reduced fat cream cheese (this is 3/4 of an 8 oz. block), thawed to about room temperature
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2-3/4 cup canned pumpkin or pumpkin butter
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves
  • 1 (8 oz.) container reduced fat Cool Whip


In the bowl of a stand mixer (or any mixer), beat cream cheese and powdered sugar. Add the canned pumpkin or pumpkin butter and spices. Fold in the Cool Whip container.

Serve dip with gingersnaps and/or graham crackers. It's seriously delicious!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Smoky Coconut-Lime Black Bean & Brown Rice Soup


It was a gorgeous fall day here last Friday and my daughter and I enjoyed the sunshine, cool breezes, the sound of acorns falling from the sky, the feel of crunching leaves under our feet, and richer aromas in the kitchen. Below is the perfect picture of our leisurely afternoon--Theraflu (for me) and our shared acorn stash.


I saw this on Pinterest and in case anyone needs any more reasons to love fall--here you go!

(courtesy of tinywhitedaisies.tumblr.com) 

And one of my favorite things about about fall is: It's SOUP weather! I tried making a new soup that I wanted to share. More than half the soups I make have some sort of tomato base and I wanted to try a black bean soup that was different and thought of coconut milk. It ended up being delicious and even my 2 year old ate it. My husband called it 'CLEAN-tasting.' But, I call it complex. It is smoky, sweet, salty, tangy, tart, creamy, and spicy all in one. You can taste the lime, the garlic, the coconut, the cilantro, and the chipotle. Layers of flavor! Hope you enjoy it!



SMOKY COCONUT-LIME BLACK BEAN & BROWN RICE SOUP

Makes 4-6 servings
  • 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce (I used 1 chili & added a bit of extra 'sauce' from the can)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or about 4 Trader Joe's frozen cilantro cubes)
  • 2 (15 1/2 oz) cans black beans, UN-drained
  • 1 (15 oz) can light (reduced-fat) coconut milk
  • 1 lime--for zest & juice
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (or white if you prefer)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste (smoked salt preferred if you have it)
  • Water
  • 1 SMALL squirt of agave nectar (OPTIONAL)*


In a large pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion, garlic, cumin, chile, and cilantro. Saute for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 cup of water and reduce heat to low. Continue to saute onions for about 10 more minutes or until softened.

Pour beans AND their liquid in with the onions. Add the coconut milk. Add about 1 1/2 -2 cups more of water. Bring up the heat to high until the soup boils. Once it boils, reduce heat to medium-low and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the lime zest and lime juice and mix.

Measure out about 1 cup of bean/soup mixture and puree until smooth. Return the bean puree to the soup (to thicken) and add the cooked rice. Stir the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Serve warm.

Ladle out the soup into bowls and serve with sour cream or plain, Greek yogurt, and more lime wedges. We even tried it with avocado slices and tortilla chips--it was awesome!



*(Mine tasted just the tiniest bit bitter--which I am guessing was from the chile --but who, knows? And so I added a little bit of agave nectar and the soup was elevated to WONDERFUL. I can't figure out why, but it really just MADE IT. I've done that before for soups when they taste slightly bitter or salty and it just works. You can skip this step if you want.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sweet Potato Cheesecake Bites



Sometime this spring, I froze some sweet potato puree I made. Over the weekend, I decided to clean out some of the freezer and made sweet potato popovers with some of the sweet potato puree (delicious!). Today I was wanting to make a dessert with the rest of the puree. Since it is fall, the time for flavorful and comforting desserts is upon us. And desserts that are slightly richer....but since I'm a fan of 'everything in moderation,' I decided to cut my desserts in smaller portions. Now, I just need someone to take them away so I don't eat more than I should 'because they're so small!' Guests can have as many 'bites' or as little as they want when these sweet potato bars are cut smaller. I really love how some restaurants (P.F. Chang's for instance) are allowing patrons to order smaller portions of their desserts. It makes it fun to try more things this way!

I ran across this recipe at East Village Kitchen blog and changed it up a bit to suit my liking. Also, I accidentally left out the baking powder from the original recipe (1/2 tsp.) in the base, but didn't miss it--actually preferred the creamier texture. And it still held up to being cut in smaller bites. My husband said it tasted like pumpkin pie--but I think it tastes better. No one can understand why I don't like pumpkin pie because I love pumpkin pie spices, but if I'm going to have my calories, I want it to be on something I love. Well, I really love these bites! Probably because they are creamy (I love pumpkin cheesecake!). You can skip the pumpkin pie spice for a purer flavor. And, I'm guessing you can substitute pumpkin for the sweet potato.

By the way, does anyone else find surprises in their kitchen? This is what I found when I began my baking. I was told that Minnie also wanted to cook. Apparently, Minnie also ate a few....that's the story I'm sticking with anyway...



These sweet potato cheesecake bites would be a fun dessert to serve during the holidays or even for cocktail-type parties where only appetizers and/or desserts are served. 


SWEET POTATO CHEESECAKE BITES

Should make about ~32 mini squares

For the base:
  • 8 Tbsp. butter (1 stick)--I used salted butter--a part 'light' butter and a part real butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet potato puree (canned or cooked & pureed by you)*
  • 3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar (raw sugar preferred)
  • 1 cup flour (I used all purpose, but plan on trying whole wheat pastry flour next time)
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white (reserve yolk for topping)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (this may seem like a lot, but I think vanilla goes really well with the sweet potatoes)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (optional)

For topping:
  • 1 (8 oz.) package reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 5 Tbsp. brown sugar (or raw)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 8 inch square pan with 2 inch high walls with butter. Trim two pieces of baker’s parchment so they can sit flat on the bottom the the pan and so they are long enough to hang over the sides by a few inches. Butter the paper. (Now, I skipped the buttering before applying the parchment but think it was an essential step—since I had rough edges and ended up eating them all. Or, I'm not sure what it would be like to skip the parchment paper step altogether....?)

Microwave your sweet potatoes. Then, microwave the butter to melt it completely (about 30-45 seconds), and whisk the butter into the mashed sweet potatoes until the mixture is smooth with very few bumps.
Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, a hand mixer or a whisk, add sugar to the sweet potato mixture and beat until smooth. Add egg, egg white, and vanilla and beat until they are fully integrated. Add flour and salt and mix just until the liquids have absorbed them. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, spreading it evenly.

In a separate bowl, using a whisk or hand mixer, combine cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar, and vanilla and beat until smooth and uniform.

Place 6-8 large dollops of the mixture on top of the batter in the pan. Use a knife to swirl the cream cheese mixture into the batter. Rap the pan flat against the counter a few times to level, then place in the preheated oven, on the middle rack. 

Bake until the cheesecake swirls are starting to turn golden, and a toothpick inserted into the batter part comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Use the parchment to pull the cake from the pan and transfer it to a cutting board and cut into squares. (You can place them in mini-muffin liners like I did for an easy-to-eat way to serve. No utensils are needed if you are standing :))

Store sweet potato cheesecake bites in an airtight container in the fridge.



*If you are using leftover baked sweet potatoes, remove them from foil, cut them in half and microwave them for 30 seconds to a minute, depending on thickness. If you are starting with raw sweet potatoes, poke holes in the skin with a fork and microwave on high for 4 to six minutes, or until they are soft and easily mashed. Discard skins and mash and whisk with a fork until they are smooth. 



Friday, October 21, 2011

Cauliflower Poppers

This is a real winner from Weight Watchers! I can eat the whole head of cauliflower by myself (seriously). My brother in law is all kinds of wrong...he thinks that cauliflower is like the ugly stepsister of broccoli. He likes to remind me how lonely it looks on vegetable platters at the end of parties. But, I prefer its mild, nuttier flavor to that of broccoli. We also argue the merits of parsley. And reading. And all-inclusive vacations. It just feels so good to tell him he's wrong. Everyone else just laughs at us. But we have fun. One day, I'm going to slip some parsley and cauliflower in something he regularly eats and trick him into reading something other than politics. In Mexico. I may need help. And whatever kind you're thinking is probably right.

But give this a try for a different kind of side item to your meats and or if you're on a low-carb diet. It's one of those dishes that doesn't feel like diet food. And if by chance I'm wrong and it does, just throw some grated Parmesan cheese on top. YUM!




CAULIFLOWER POPPERS
Adapted from Weight Watchers


Olive oil cooking spray
1 head(s) (medium) cauliflower
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder, or more to taste
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cut cauliflower florets into bite-sized pieces (there should be about 4 cups). Place cauliflower in a medium bowl and add cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper; toss well to coat.

Spread cauliflower on prepared baking sheet and bake until cauliflower is tender, but not mushy, stirring halfway through, about 10 minutes.

Yields about 1/2 cup per serving--so according to WW, that would be about 8 servings. I say more like 4 servings. That's how much I like it!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus



Sorry this is another hummus post--but, I just love hummus. I have expressed it before, but seriously, I REALLY really love hummus. My mom and I made roasted red peppers last time she visited me and we froze them. While going through my freezer, I decided to make a roasted red pepper hummus because those pita chips looked awfully lonely. It turned out excellent.

Moments after this picture was taken, my child tried to inch closer to the hummus and in trying to help her, I pushed the container over the edge and precious dip spilled all over the kitchen floor. My toddler burst into tears. 'What's wrong? Did that scare you?', I asked. 'All my hummus is gone!', she wailed. Well, luckily for her, this made a double batch--I'm freezing some (Yes, the recipe below makes a double batch of any of my other hummus recipes--but you can halve it. We just eat a lot.). 

It's just on the slight side of spicy, but you can use less crushed red pepper.

ROASTED RED PEPPER HUMMUS

Serves a big crowd as an appetizer

  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained (reserve 1/2 cup of liquid)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp. tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt (sea salt preferred)
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Strain the beans, reserving portion of liquid.

Using a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients and mix until smooth, stirring to ensure even mixing consistency if necessary.

Spoon into covered container and refrigerate overnight before serving, if possible. Store in refrigerator. Hummus will keep for about 2 weeks. 

Hummus can be served alone or with pita chips and/or veggies.

(Having trouble with blogger so if part of my font seems 'off'--sorry! I've been working on it, but can't seem to find a solution yet.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Orange Garlic Broccolini with Almonds


I wanted to share my new favorite vegetable--it's not exactly a NEW vegetable, just MY new favorite vegetable. I usually toss this with lemon juice, but on a whim, I tried orange juice and this vegetable was elevated from good to GREAT! I much prefer broccolini this to broccoli--more crunch, more mellowness.

 Broccolini is like broccoli's cousin. It's a cross between regular broccoli and Chinese kale. It's also been called 'baby broccoli' and all you need to know is that if it prepared right (basically, not overcooked), it is DELICIOUS. Unfortunately, it's slightly more expensive than broccoli for the same quantity. Most recipes call for broccolini to be blanched before sauteeing, but I don't know why. I skip that step and still seem to have success. If anyone knows why it is boiled or blanched first, please enlighten me.

When I told my mom about it (because any new creation gets blabbed to her or my aunt), she said, 'So it's like Chinese broccoli?'...well, not sure...but maybe if you added ginger? Try it and let me know. Or I might beat you to it...this was the first time my child actually request and ate anything related to broccoli in the last year so I will be making it again. And again. And again.



ORANGE GARLIC BROCCOLINI WITH ALMONDS


Serves ~4 as a side dish

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch broccolini, rinsed (stems trimmed)
  • 1 small orange, juiced
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup (or slightly less) of sliced almonds

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, broccolini, and orange juice. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for a few minutes until the broccolini is bright green. When the broccolini becomes bright green, add the almonds and toss together with the vegetables. Continue to cook for a minute longer and turn off the heat. (We like ours a little crunchy so cook longer if you prefer softer vegetables.)

Serve warm. Goes great with rice or potatoes and chicken or fish.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Maple Apple Pecan Bread


My friend (and neighbor), Lindsay, and I went apple picking for the first time this season. We took our girls and enjoyed seeing them take delight from picking fruit off the tree and putting the apples in their own baskets.



It was a gorgeous, sunny day!



Lindsay made apple pie with the apples and I made applesauce and Maple Apple Pecan Bread. It's my new favorite quickbread that I stumbled upon at www.cookingforseven.com. This blog is so beautiful! (I have adapted the recipe a bit, but wanted to give credit to the Erica--she's an incredibly talented 21 year old!) I'm glad I made extra to share with our other neighbor, Chelsea. I can't wait to make this again. It's delicious in the morning with a cup of coffee or as a snack in the afternoon with a piece of cheese and a cup of tea.



Reasons why I absolutely LOVE this Maple Apple Pecan bread and think you will too:

  1. It is tender and moist.
  2. It has a crumbly-crunchy topping.
  3. It is made with whole grains and is sweetened with maple syrup instead of sugar.
  4. It makes the whole house smell like fall.
  5. It has complex layers of flavor--the vanilla, the maple, the cinnamon, the nuttiness--simply delicious.



MAPLE APPLE PECAN BREAD
inspired by www.cookingforseven.com

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour (I love King Arthur brand)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. old fashioned oats 
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds (flaxmeal)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 heaping tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 (or less) tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk or fat-free plain Greek yogurt (or a combination of the two)
  • 5 1/2 Tbsp. melted butter (I did a combination of light and regular butters)
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped apples (relatively finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Topping:

  • Ground cinnamon & brown sugar (Turbindo or raw sugar preferred)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour a 9X5X3 inch loaf pan. I use the spray below instead--makes it so much easier!



In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, oats, flaxmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the apples and pecans. (I like to add them at this point so that they are covered with the dry ingredients first and think it makes a little bit of a difference so they don't sink as far into the bread when baking.)

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk/yogurt, melted butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Then, mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with apples and pecans. Gently fold to incorporate the ingredients thoroughly.

Scoop the batter into the prepared loaf pan and top with cinnamon and sugar and the pecans reserved for topping. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Let bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes then invert onto a cooling rack to cool before wrapping & storing.  Serve slightly toasted with butter.



Makes one large loaf that welcomes fall! Enjoy.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Parmesan Chicken Picatta



I LOVE chicken picatta! And I think you will too. I had never made it before, but since I wanted to make something special now that my husband was coming home after a few weeks away in training, I decided to play around with my friend Nancy's chicken picatta recipe and Rachel Ray's recipe and this is what I came up with below. I didn't have fresh parsley (which I think is truly the traditional way to make it--but will try that next time), so I used dried parsley in the breading and it was very good). Also, Rachel Ray's recipe uses a lot more Parmesan cheese--but I chose to cut it down significantly and still feel you could taste the cheese in the final outcome. We really enjoyed this dinner and will definitely be making it again sometime soon.

Our dinner comprised of this chicken, cumin & chili roasted cauliflower (recipe to follow), lima beans, and a Harvest Grains blend by Trader Joe's (Israeli couscous blend--see below--very delicious!). You would probably do well to serve it with a salad and potatoes also. This is an awesome weeknight dinner that is still special enough to serve to company. YUM!

 
 (photo courtesy of 'food for conversation')
 
 

PARMESAN CHICKEN PICATTA

Serves 4

  • 3/4 - 1 cup panko bread crumbs (you may not need the whole cup)
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese (freshly grated if you can get it)
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 4 chicken cutlets (mine were THIN cut and just under 1 pound total weight for all 4)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3/4 - 1 cup all purpose flour (you may not need the whole cup)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. oil (I used a combination of olive oil and safflower oil)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (this means NOT a sweet white wine like Riesling)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2-3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. capers, drained
  • 1 or 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • Fresh parsley (can omit the dried if you have fresh)

In a small-medium sized container, mix the Panko bread crumbs with the dried parsley and Parmesan cheese. Set aside. Put your flour in another small-medium sized container. And lastly, in another container or bowl (about same size as the other two), whisk your egg.

Rinse cutlets (no need to pat dry).

Your first step will be to dredge cutlets through the flour. The second step will be to dip the cutlets in the egg and then press them into the Panko breadcrumb mixture. Set them aside.

Heat oil in a large saute pan and saute the cutlets for about 3 minutes on each side or until they are golden brown and cooked through (turn them over gently so as to not remove the breading). The thicker the cutlets, the more time they will need to cook--probably another 3-4 minutes (or more). Keep your eye on them and take them out when they get golden brown and are thoroughly cooked.

Set the cooked chicken breasts aside. At this point, I removed any burned bits inside the pan with a paper towel--but if you are comfortable doing so, leave them in.

Deglaze pan by pouring in the wine and garlic. My garlic was finely minced and cooked super fast, but it might take a minute or two until most of the liquid is evaporated and the garlic has cooked through.

Pour in the chicken broth, lemon juice, capers, butter, and lemon slices. Stir. When the butter has melted, return the cutlets to the pan and let them cook for another minute or two (careful when flipping them to leave the breading on).

Serve a cutlet on each plate. Evenly distribute any leftover sauce from the pan over each cutlet before serving. Serve with freshly chopped parsley on top of chicken (if you have it).

Serve warm.



We found this chicken to be salty, tangy, tender, slightly crispy, and basically all around delicious. Hope everyone else will enjoy it too!